Eventually I lost track of time- hours became days, days became weeks, and I stopped straining myself to keep count.
It became easier, as time went on, to differentiate the voices that surrounded me, to make sense of their words. I was able to string together whole conversations, and in doing so I could make sense of what was happening in the world outside of my blank, black mind.
And that same boy, the one whose voice I’d come to know, who’s very touch still sent shivers through my mind, came to visit me each day. It seemed that every second that passed without him beside me was longer than the ones when he was by my side, whispering my name and holding onto my hand tightly. Those were the moments when I allowed myself to believe that maybe, just maybe, this darkness would pass.
I was absolutely positive that it was a miserable day outside, although, of course, I had no way of knowing for sure. He was in the room with me, as always, holding my hand and talking to me all about the novel we were supposedly reading in English class.
Just then, the door creaked open, and there was the sound of soft footsteps as whoever it was came into my sarcophagus.
“Mr. Barrett, it’s almost closing time,” the voice said. I thought I recognized one of the nurse’s comforting voices.
“Just another minute,” he begged. “I just want to say goodbye.”
The door closed gently. He gave my hand a small squeeze.
“I wish I never had to leave you,” he whispered. I longed to tell him that I wished the same.
“Cordelia says that you look better. She came to visit you yesterday,” he went on.
Cordelia. I turned over the name in my head, for it sounded so familiar. It was everything soothing, a feeling of relief washing through me at the mere sound of it. It was light to break the shadows.
And there was something else. Something my mind was straining to remember in spite of the pain that was being inflicted upon it.
It was a name, not a common name, though it was terribly familiar to me. It had been uttered in my mind possibly thousands of times.
I thought then to the angel that sat down at my side.
That name, that accursed name exploded within my mind, bringing with it a wave of pain and joy all meshed into one.
Remembering is a funny thing, for once one has properly remembered, they are left feeling appalled and ridiculous for ever even forgetting.
I found myself in that very circumstance just then. For now I could recall every moment, every word murmured in the dim glow of candlelight. Every kiss, every touch, every second in his arms.
I thought that I would have cried just then, if I could have, but of course I could not. The comatose state I found myself in would not allow in. Nor could I let Griffin know that I could hear him, or that I would have given anything to be able to open my mouth and tell him that I loved him.
I hurried through the doors of Billiards after school, stepping out into the vicious air of winter. It was well into January now, though the new year certainly hadn’t brought on any changes. Little piles of snow lined the sidewalks, drifting out into the streets, into the sky, and then away. It seemed that even they could no longer stand to remain here.
A few of the surrounding buildings were still trimmed with their holiday decorations, despite the fact that Christmas had long since passed. There hadn’t been much to celebrate anyway.
I moved through the throngs of people at a quickened pace, occasionally blowing into my hands in a futile attempt at warmth. I’d found that when the chill came from within you, from the fear mounted in your heart, it was much, much harder to shake it.
It seemed to me that nowadays the only thing that changed was the date. I watched the calendar, a constant reminder of the days slipping away from me. Days I knew I couldn’t ever get back.
By now the staff at the hospital knew me well. They waved to me as I passed them, their superficial smiles filled with false hope, lies I could barely stomach. I never returned the gesture. I refused to give into their façade.
It didn’t surprise me that I was the only one there. Stephanie had gone back to work; not to mention she was now dealing with her own grueling divorce. As a prosecutor she was tough as nails. As a petitioner she was… not,
I let myself into Arielle’s room, closing the door softly and taking the necessary steps to get to her bed. She was motionless as ever, her black hair sprawled across the stark white linen. In her everlasting sleep, she had attained a sort of contemplative look. I could only imagine what was going on within the folds of her semi-conscious mind.
I had drawn countless images of her in this room, not a one doing her justice. A few strokes could never capture the beauty there. Even with the fading bruises that covered her face, the cuts and contusions that had yet to heal.
Today I did not pull out my art supplies. Instead I reached into my bag and withdrew a well-worn copy of Hamlet. Recently I had been devouring the script almost daily. While it would never replace Romeo and Juliet, I was enthralled by the darkness waging within the young prince, enchanted by the way in which he chose to smother it. Like I said, we all had our vices.
I opened up to the second scene of the first act and began to read at the seventieth line.
“Do not for ever with thy vailèd lids/ Seek for thy noble father in the dust/ Thou know'st 'tis common/ All that lives must die/ passing through nature to eternity.” I let the words reverberate throughout the room, settle into my mind. It was by far my favorite passage.
My green eyes fell upon Arielle then. “I missed you,” I whispered softly. “I can hardly bear to be away from you.”
“You needn’t worry about her. She has God by her side.”
Cordelia’s all-knowing voice reached my ears. I did not turn to meet her gaze, but I couldn’t contain the sarcastic comments threatening to spill out.
“Oh yes, I feel so much better now that I know an invisible force is watching over her.”
My grandmother did not dignify me with a response. Instead she came to sit in the only chair the room offered. My grandmother did not dignify me with a response. Instead she came to sit in the only chair the room offered.
“You know, I do not go around cutting on you all the time,” she murmured eventually. “I show you more respect than that. I allow you to make your own choices.”
This time it was I who remained silent. She was right, of course, but I couldn’t very well tell her that. I was much too set in my ways.
I threw ‘Hamlet’ into my bag carefully, trying very hard not to break the quiet. Cordelia was gazing out the window. For the life of me I didn’t know why she came here, if not to talk with Arielle. Or perhaps it was my presence that prevented her from such.
I almost stood up to leave. Cordelia deserved time to see her too, of course. I hated to leave her, but I couldn’t stay forever. Sometimes staying was actually harder than leaving. Sometimes staying hurt more.
So, yes, I probably would have, had the door not suddenly been thrust open, and a very unexpected person entered the room.
“Where is she?”
I turned my head quickly to face the owner of the new voice. Joshua Kemp stood in the doorway, his own paled face flushed, his eyes wide, his shirt wrinkled. I could not say that his presence surprised me. Startled me, no doubt, but did not surprise me.
I remained as calm as I could. “She’s in here, Mr. Kemp.”
Joshua nodded, a slight dip of the head, before stumbling over to his daughter’s bedside. He lowered himself to his knees and propped his elbows on the side of the mattress. After but a few seconds of staring into Arielle’s pale, lifeless face, he broke out into hysterical sobs. I wondered if Cordelia and I should leave him alone or not, but before I could make up my mind, Joshua had turned back around to me.
“Have the doctor’s said anything?” He asked frantically. I could tell he was holding onto the last strands of hope he had left. “Is she making any progress?”
I held his gaze for only a moment before dropping my eyes to my lap- partly because I couldn’t bear to be the one to tell him that the chances of Arielle waking up were slim to none. But mostly because his gray-blue eyes were so identical to hers, I could barely stand it.
Joshua understood all too well. When I glanced back up, his own gaze had returned to his ever-slumbering daughter’s body, watching her intently for even the slightest movement.
“I wanted to be here sooner. I would’ve flown in the day I found out. But Julia’s been so sick, and…” He swallowed hard. “That’s no excuse.”
“I’m sure she appreciated you flying in at all,” I told him quickly, hoping that speaking positively of her would help him. Or me. Or both.
But Joshua remained silent as ever; he had taken one of Arielle’s limp hands in one of his own and was stroking it gently. It was several minutes before he spoke again, and when he did, his question caught me off guard.
“What happened, Griffin? You were there with her. What happened to my baby girl?”
I took an uneven, staggering breath. How could I even begin to explain to his the events that had led up to the accident? How could I allow those memories to resurface all these weeks later, when I was sure I’d buried them for good?
“She was hit by a car,” I said simply. Joshua nodded, and I allowed him to believe that he understood.
“You’d rather not discuss it. That’s fine.”
Only then did I realize that Cordelia had, at some point, left the room. Arielle’s father and I sank back into a comfortable silence as he cried over his comatose daughter’s body.
Finally, I stood up.
“It helps if you talk to her,” I told him before slipping out of the room.